Solitude Wool is bringing a new shepherd/farm into the fold. Kathy Reed, owner of Briesbrook Farm in Round Hill, Virginia is joining the artisan yarn company as a member, adding her own fiber farming experience (cashmere goats and alpacas) and knitting expertise (Craft Yarn Council certified teacher). In addition, the Company recognizes Debbie Deutsch and Kim Pierce, both fiber artists who have been working with Solitude Wool for years as valuable assets and members of the LLC. This growth offers fresh ideas and energy to help the partnership grow its wooly mission through direct buying from farms, educating people about the amazing range of ability of wool from many breeds of sheep, and tempting knitters and other fiber artists and craftspeople with wonderful wool.
Week long sale with bookend events to mark the occasion
We are celebrating by offering 5% off for each of the three new partners: 15% total on all their yarns, fibers and patterns for the week of March 11th through the 17th. Come to their warehouse in Purcellville, Virginia for an Open House on Sunday, March 11th from noon to 4:00 pm to meet all the partners. Online orders are also are 15% off all week (use link or discount code: congrats!) To cap off the celebration, Solitude Wool will be at the Fibernate farmers market in Falls Church, Virginia on Saturday March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.
Here is the rest of the press release with company and product background and brief bios of our new partners:
Started small and local
Solitude Wool creates small batch, breed-specific yarns from fleece sourced exclusively in the Chesapeake watershed region. It began in 2006 when two shepherds, Gretchen Frederick of Solitude in Round Hill, Virginia and Sue Bundy of RedGate Farm in Leesburg, Virginia started working together to create breed-specific yarns. They met through a local sheep club with many shepherds raising a wide variety of interesting, pure-bred and often rare sheep breeds. These farms had no market paying more than a few cents a pound for the fleece or the knowledge or desire to create products from their wool.
First breed-specific yarn line
Because Frederick and Bundy started from a shepherd’s perspective of educating customers about how great different types of wool are, rather than a more standard marketing perspective of discovering “what the customer wants,” they may have been the first in the country to create a range of breed-specific wool yarns, anticipating by several years the interest within the knitting community. Initially selling exclusively at farmers markets in the DC metro area, then larger fiber festivals and national shows, the company gained many loyal customers and the respect and interest of many national knitting and wool authorities.
Direct sales, local, across the US and Internationally
Currently Solitude Wool sells yarn, prepared wool roving, washed fleece, knitting patterns and kits from their website, warehouse located in Purcellville, Virginia (by appointment and as part of the Loudoun County Artisan Trail) and at shows including the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival and New York Sheep & Wool Festival (Rhinebeck). They have also participated in other shows in Washington State, California, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Hampshire and North Carolina. In December, Solitude Wool does three farmers markets: Dupont FreshFarm Market, the Falls Church Farmers Market and the Leesburg Home Grown Farmers Market. Special events, trunk shows for fiber guilds and yarn stores and special educational “Farm Field Days” to learn about a specific breed of sheep round out sales and activities.
Wool products with the artisan touch:
Currently, Solitude Wool offers twenty different small batch yarns plus prepared roving created with eighteen different breeds of sheep and camelids. The wool is all sourced in the mid-Atlantic by partner Sue Bundy directly from small farms. Much of the creation of the yarns is done by hand, including selection and skirting of all the fleeces. The company believes in the intrinsic value of good wool and purchases fleece at a fair price many multiples over what is offered by commercial wool buyers.
Each yarn is designed to utilize the natural attributes of the breed’s fleece. The wool is shipped to small mills across the US, matching the expertise and equipment of the mill to achieve the design. These mills are also small, artisan businesses. Here the fleece is gently processed, maintaining the life and character of the wool in the yarn.
Once spun, the yarn returns to the Purcellville warehouse on cones. Wound into skeins on motorized skein winders at the warehouse, the yarn goes to Gretchen Frederick’s farm Solitude to be dyed. Frederick’s education and professional background is in art, and her love of color is evident in the wide and constantly refreshed range of rich, bright or subtle colors. Most dyelots are only four pounds and nothing is dyed by recipe or repeated. The yarn is then rinsed (many times), re-skeined, labeled and finally is ready for knitters and fiber artists to enjoy.
The new partners:
Kathy is a fiber farmer, knitting teacher, and new partner at Solitude Wool. After retiring as a Navy Captain in 2011, Kathy tried all the things: Master Gardener, Craft Yarn Council Certified Knit Teacher, Parent Teacher Association President, shawl ministry secretary, cookie mom, yogi, fiber guild web designer, farmer, shepherd, chicken wrangler, stained glass, jewelry, hand spinning and knitwear designer.
Striving in her encore career to honor her bandwidth and natural life rhythms, she has narrowed her focus to the fiber arts. A life-long learner, she is intrigued by the idea of following the journey of a favorite sweater. She absorbs all she can about the plants that nourish the fiber animals, the farm that husbands them, the fleece harvesting, fiber preparation, spinning, dying and finally designing and knitting the beloved garment.
She lives with her family: human, fleeced and feathered on Briesbrook Farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Debbie is an avowed “fiberholic.” She is the granddaughter of a weaver and two knitters. It was her Great Aunt Bess who introduced her to knitting at age 6, and weaving entered her life in her mid-thirties. Although she has experimented with just about every fiber related hobby there is, those seem to be her mainstays. She now has begun teaching her two granddaughters how to weave and has a nephew who has learned to design weaving patterns. Her goal in retirement, after a 27-year career with Fairfax County government, was to spend more time exploring weaving and knitting patterns. She added spinning to her repertoire after experimenting with it one year at the Bluemont Fair and falling in love with the Zen of it. After a series of post-retirement part-time jobs, Debbie began working with Solitude Wool in 2009, a happy marriage of vocation and avocation.
Kind teachers who generously shared their knowledge are who Kim thanks for guiding her down the fiber path of life. Women meeting at the public library taught her to crochet when she was an elementary school student. From there it was knitting in high school, and felting and dyeing in Fiber Arts classes at the University of Washington, where she earned a BFA. Later, after falling off the fiber wagon, while Kim was working in Japan it was a Japanese co-worker that reacquainted her with the stress relieving benefits of knitting. The wool blanket that ensued not only kept Kim warm during the cold winters in Japan, when unfolded, it took up the entire floor space of her one-room apartment— the apartment was tiny, the blanket is not! After resettling back in the States, Kim took up weaving with a feeling that this brought all the bits of fiber knowledge full circle and that there was no need to take up spinning. That did not last. Turns out Kim loves spinning wool, and that led to wanting to learn more about the 1,400 some different breeds of sheep in the world, their wool, and how each breed's fleece can best be utilized. It's this quest that brought Kim to Solitude Wool, first as a fan then as freelance “fiberista”. Kim's curiosity and Solitude Wool's specialty in breed specific wool yarns continues to be a perfect match
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From concept to sketch to letting loose on the dye tables...wanted to share the process with you of creating our special colorway for Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2021.
A shot in the dark